Digital Onboarding: In-app Provisioning vs QR Codes | Mobilise Global Digital Onboarding: In-app Provisioning vs QR Codes | Mobilise Global

IntroductionDigital Onboarding - OR codes VS In-App Two phones one with QR Code the other one showing in-app activation

Over recent years, and due to the emergence of numerous OTT services, customers’ expectations towards Service Providers (and many other brands) have changed. They are less patient and more online-focused than ever before and thus require fast and efficient services, short waiting times and a personalised approach.


The introduction of eSIM to the consumer segment presented Service Providers (SPs) with an opportunity to fully digitalise their services. It is possible thanks to remote SIM provisioning – eSIM allows SPs to program the subscriber profile remotely, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card to authenticate the service.


We will walk you through the differences between traditional and eSIM-enabled customer onboarding. And, interestingly, even though eSIM hasn’t been around for very long, two distinctive ways of activating eSIM have emerged – via QR codes and in-app. It is important to know the difference between the two to ensure the best possible experience for your customers.

Traditional SIM Card Activation

To acquire a traditional SIM card, the customer has to set up an account (contract or prepaid) with an operator of choice. Then, they have to insert the plastic SIM card into their phone to authenticate the service. If at some point they decide to change the provider, they will have to remove the first SIM card and insert the new one. There is also a case of customers who, for certain reasons, need or want to use services from more than one provider. In this case, they have to keep swapping plastic SIM cards according to needs.


It is quite apparent that this option is not the most convenient for the end-user. Working with fiddly cards and having to own a SIM eject tool to extract the SIM tray are not synonyms of a great customer experience. And as SIM cards are quite small, they are easily lost or misplaced. Getting a replacement SIM requires the help of a customer service agent, which is usually a hassle for both the end-user and the operator.

Remote SIM Provisioning

The emergence of eSIM technology in the consumer market facilitated new ways of SIM activation. Fortunately, there are no such issues as misplaced cards or lost SIM tray pins. In fact, there is no need for traditional SIM cards at all – eSIM profiles can be downloaded onto the UICC chip that is soldered inside the device and can accommodate multiple eSIM profiles. To activate the service, the customer has to download the SIM profile of the operator of choice onto their device and activate it. There are two ways of doing that.

QR Code Activation

The first method utilises widely known QR codes. The customer starts a contract with the operator of choice and receives the instruction to activate the service. Below are 3 examples of eSIM activation using QR codes.


  • Three, UK – video – A customer receives a paper voucher with a printed QR code.
  • Circles.Life, Singapore – video – A customer receives an email with a QR code upon plan creation.
  • Vodafone, Qatar – video – A customer generates the QR code in-app and is required to send it to another device.


The QR code contains the address of the Remote SIM Provisioning system (SM-DP+), which allows the device to connect to that system and securely download a SIM profile. Once the profile is installed and activated, the device is able to connect to that operator’s network.


In all three examples, however, the user is required to use another device, a laptop or another phone, or, in Three’s case, a paper voucher to activate the service. Therefore, we wouldn’t call the experience frictionless or intuitive. Nonetheless, it’s a good step forward in a journey to creating a fully digital customer onboarding.


In-app Provisioning 

Another option is in-app activation. It’s very quick and straightforward. The user downloads the operators’ mobile app and starts building their subscription plan. Upon completion, they are asked to activate their eSIM profile, which only takes one tap. After a few seconds, the profile is installed, and the customer can start using the service. 


How is it done? The Mobile Application has access to the device operating system APIs through which the App passes the SM-DP+ information to the eUICC chip soldered in the device. That ultimately enables the App to activate, delete and manage eSIM profiles on the device seamlessly.  


Mobilise’s latest solution – eSIM as a Service – utilises in-app eSIM activation, making the onboarding experience quick and uncomplicated. This option removes the need for visual explanation and step-by-step instructions. Below is a video that shows the onboarding experience with in-app eSIM provisioning. 



To Sum Up

The consumer eSIM is evolving and quite quickly. No wonder – it allows operators to completely transform the user experience and better meet their needs and expectations. In this day and age, it’s extremely important as it keeps customers loyal and that, in turn, is conducive to business success. Therefore, when deciding to implement eSIM technology, it is crucial to know the difference between in-app and QR code-driven onboarding.


Please feel free to contact us if you’d like to find out more and have a look at what other opportunities come from eSIM.


By Malwina Roczniak

Malwina Roczniak is a Business and Marketing Specialist at Mobilise and assists the company with various projects. With a passion for all things digital and a growing interest in telecommunications, she seeks to expand and utilise her knowledge to help companies through digital transformation.


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